After sitting out Lonestar’s 2010 album, Party Heard Around the World, as he pursued a solo career, original lead singer Richie McDonald returns for the band’s eighth studio album. Life As We Know It, due in stores June 4, not only marks a reunion between Richie and fellow members Michael Britt (lead guitar/backing vocals), Keech Rainwater (drums) and Dean Sams (keyboards/backing vocals), but it’s also the first time the group has had complete creative control over a new project.
Lonestar not only produced Life As We Know It themselves, but they’re also set to release it through their own 4 Star Records. Pair that with the quartet writing nine of the album’s 12 songs and the foundation here is one of complete artistic freedom. The result is in many ways a return to form for the group that notched nine No. 1 singles through the late ’90s and early ’00s.
Full of electric riffs and tight harmonies, Life As We Know It showcases a rejuvenated band throughout much of the record. Songs like the summer anthem “Party All Day” and pace-setting opener, “The Countdown,” establish the tone as Lonestar moves through an incredibly polished collection. Stretching out on “Maybe Someday,” Richie’s dynamic vocal creates emotional urgency when matched with the flowing rhythm section. And on “I Did It For The Girl,” Michael’s guitar twists land evenly with Keech’s percussive turns. Dean’s ringing piano melody adds sonic depth and by the time Richie leans into the line, I knew Rebecca had her eye on me, when I came up for air she said, ‘Boy you’re crazy,’ the band is in high gear.
While the consciously modern lyrics of songs like the jilted tale, “How Can She Be Everywhere,” catch the ear with references to YouTube and Facebook, Life As We Know It stands out for easygoing numbers that balance nostalgia with self-aware humor. On the shuffling “Pretty Good Day” it’s a quick line about the relief that comes with not seeing yourself in the obituaries. The good-natured “I Miss When” delivers a string of relatable anecdotes involving time-honored, ‘glory days’ topics like the girl next door and mowing lawns for extra cash. Richie does an excellent job connecting with the audience here by emphasizing the sort of universal simple pleasures bound to make listeners smile. I miss when time moved slower and too loud sounded good, he sings with a nudge. Willing to shake things up with funky rhythms and a horn section, “Oh Yeah” details the group’s early years where guitar amps and a two-car garage were a little slice of heaven before turning to thank all the fans that brought Lonestar this far.
Set to sentimental piano and warm strings, the stirring ballad “Just The Rain” provides the album’s most striking moments through its vivid depiction of loss. I can feel you on my skin / but to them, it’s only the wind, Richie sings, easing patiently into each new line while building tension. This sort of drama and emotion, packed into each new passage, showcases a skilled group of musicians with an undeniable chemistry, and on Life As We Know It, that’s a welcome note for fans waiting on new material.
Key Tracks – “Just The Rain,” “Pretty Good Day,” “I Miss When,” “Maybe Someday”